Sunday, May 12, 2013
Remembering my mother's gifts
By Buster Olney
CHICAGO -- My mom was an incredible cook, making an onion-covered pot roast that all of her children remember vividly (including the daughter who became a vegetarian). I will search in vain the rest of my life for any blueberry pie that might be considered comparable to hers.
She could play a mean game of badminton, drawing on her years of tennis. She was a heck of a writer, with her work appearing in everything from The New York Times to Hoard’s Dairyman to Reader’s Digest. Her penmanship was absurdly perfect. She had a great sense of humor, which came through in the ad copy she wrote. She had a gift for working with the calves on our farm, especially those who had been born sick or vulnerable in the Vermont winters. Mary Ann Lincoln was a diligent gardener, before she passed away unexpectedly seven years, one month and 46 days ago.
But what she was best at was being a mom, which meant raising four kids who had completely different interests and working to help them along on their respective paths. She had only cursory knowledge of baseball -- she could recount the rise of the ’69 Mets, her favorite team, and she knew who the third baseman was in the Tinker-Evers-Chance infield, as a matter of necessary trivia.
Mostly, however, she didn’t like professional sports, and didn’t really understand my growing obsession with them as I got older, which is why she held firm to her rule of no television in the house until shortly before I enrolled at college.
But when I was 8 years old, she bought me my first baseball book, “The Baseball Life of Sandy Koufax.” The following summer, she bought me two packs of baseball cards at the Barnard General Store -- the first card was that of Gary Sutherland, I believe, the second of Lee May -- and this really cemented my interest in sports. It was an event which mostly brought chaos to her life, because I tended to leave my growing collection of thousands of cards all over the house, at a time when she was raising my infant brother and sister, Sam and Amelia.
None of my siblings liked sports, and my mom couldn’t imagine why in the world I would want to spend all of the money I got for my daily chores -- $20 a month -- on baseball cards every spring. But she’d always honor the requests, picking up the boxes of Topps cards at Floyd’s General Store every Sunday morning, and adding The Boston Globe to our pile of Sunday papers because I wanted to read Peter Gammons’ notes column.
On the morning of April 9, 1974, I came down before dawn to do my morning chores and found a handwritten note from her on the kitchen table, describing in detail the scene that had occurred in Atlanta the night before. Hank Aaron had broken Babe Ruth’s career record for home runs, she wrote, noting how loudly the crowd had cheered. She had listened to the news on the radio the night before and knew that I would want to know.
When I started writing for newspapers, she was a precise editor, nudging me to get better -- and was a perfect audience for a young writer, because I knew that if I could write a story that caught her attention, as a very casual fan, then I had something. Writing for baseball nerds like myself would never be a problem, but to write something that my mom liked, well, that meant the piece could have a broader appeal.
For Christmas in 2005, she gave me a box of baseball-themed New Yorker cartoon cards. I sent her a thank you note using one of them.
But I have kept the rest, on my desk, the last of many gifts my mom bestowed.
Happy Mother’s Day, everybody.
News and notes
The day after Shelby Miller retired 27 straight batters in his start, Adam Wainwright threw a two-hitter against the Rockies -- which excited the stats guys at both the Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN:
1. Wainwright’s no-hit bid of 7 1/3 innings was the longest of his career; his previous long was 5 2/3 innings against the Royals on June 13, 2007.
2. Wainwright has pitched well against the Rockies in the past:, compiling a 1.17 ERA against them.
How Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright shut out the Rockies:
A. Wainwright averaged 91.7 mph with his fastball, his fastest average speed with that pitch since a start against the Reds in August 2010 (91.9 mph).
B. Wainwright threw 21 breaking pitches that Rockies hitters chose not to swing at. He got called strikes on 15 of them (71 percent).
C. Over the past five seasons, Wainwright got called strikes on just under one-third of his breaking pitches.
D. In all, Wainwright threw 39 of 45 breaking pitches for strikes. Even though he gave up both hits with them, the pitches netted him 10 outs.
E. Wainwright now has six shutouts over the past four seasons, tied for the second most in the majors despite missing the entire 2011 season.
From Elias: The 40 consecutive batters retired by the Cardinals matches the major league record for most consecutive batters retired by one team versus another set by the Rangers versus the Tigers on May 3-4, 1996.
The Cardinals are the seventh team in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) to throw two consecutive shutouts with three or fewer baserunners allowed in each game in the same series. No team has done it three times in a row.
Mike Matheny doesn’t believe everybody understands how unique Miller’s Friday performance was.
A sense of urgency is kicking in for the White Sox and Angels, two teams that had high expectations as spring training started and have struggled in the first weeks of the season -- and Chicago manager Robin Ventura, who generally has a relaxed demeanor, called a meeting in which he spoke forcefully about the mistakes his players have been making. It was the first meeting in Ventura’s tenure in which he strongly chastised players.
After the game, Ventura was cryptic in what he said. The Angels have now won three in a row, and the White Sox will send Chris Sale to the mound tonight for a win they badly need. We’ve got them on “Sunday Night Baseball.”
That Mike Trout guy is red-hot at the plate, Mike DiGiovanna writes. Ryan Madson could be back within a week.
Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone mentioned a rather incredible stat on Saturday’s broadcast: Going into that game, the White Sox had a total of three hits with the bases loaded. They got two more in the second inning Saturday, but those resulted in just two runs.
You know what’s more amazing? There is a team that has just one hit in bases-loaded situations this year: the Blue Jays.
The Dodgers finally ended their losing streak, with Hyun-Jin Ryu serving as the stopper.
James Loney signed with Tampa Bay under the same circumstances that most players land with the Rays: After being a highly touted player early in his career, Loney had been dumped in a trade by the Dodgers and not retained by the Red Sox, and he is trying to re-establish himself. So far, so good: Loney is hitting .371 with a .426 on-base percentage.
“He has a really good feel for the barrel of the bat, and adjusting it within the strike zone,” said Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton. “He also has no fear of hitting early in the count, if he gets a pitch to drive ... but he also has been great with two strikes.”
Loney has a .959 OPS.
One evaluator on the comparison between Matt Harvey and Justin Verlander, which is being heard more and more often around the sport: “Verlander has the awards and the accolades -- and he’s earned those. Harvey doesn’t have that, yet. But you can have a game plan against Verlander where you have a chance to hit his breaking stuff. The quality of Harvey’s breaking stuff is so good that even if you look for it, you don’t have a chance. None. His curveball is that good. I’ve seen guys go back to the dugout after getting a backdoor cutter from him and they’re like, ‘Wow.’”
Verlander did not have a good day Saturday. He says he has some things to work on in his next bullpen session.
This feels like it could be a statement series for the Indians if they win today, and Ubaldo Jimenez was really good.
Friends of Roy Halladay believe that he just wants one shot at the World Series. In fact, one of his friends told me that he thinks Halladay would’ve walked away if he had won a World Series.
Ryan Zimmerman made an error on an easy play Saturday, and Stephen Strasburg unraveled. The error triggered a meltdown and Davey Johnson was blunt in his assessment of how Strasburg should’ve been able to handle this.
From ESPN Stats and Information: Strasburg has surrendered eight unearned runs this season (including all four runs on Saturday); Strasburg allowed six unearned runs all of last season.
The Pirates got a great performance out of Francisco Liriano in his debut with Pittsburgh.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Paul Daugherty thinks it’s time for the Reds to rethink how they use Aroldis Chapman.
2. The Mets may have to call up a pitcher in the aftermath of Jonathon Niese’s rough outing.
3. The Cubs don’t want to be sellers at the deadline, says Jed Hoyer.
Dings and dents
1. Joel Hanrahan’s season is over, and he is set for surgery next week, Michael Silverman writes.
2. Octavio Dotel saw Dr. James Andrews, writes Rod Beard.
3. Ryan Hanigan was activated from the disabled list.
4. Jayson Werth landed on the disabled list.
5. Russell Martin has a stiff neck, and Tony Sanchez has been brought to New York, just in case.
6. Curtis Granderson could rejoin the Yankees’ lineup Tuesday.
7. Michael Cuddyer is likely headed to the disabled list.
8. Some Oakland outfielders are working their way back, Susan Slusser writes.
9. Colby Lewis suffered a setback.
1. Los Rojos wrecked the ball Saturday.
2. Cliff Lee was really good, writes Matt Gelb.
3. Andy Pettitte was The Man for the Yankees.
4. The Red Sox struggled for a clutch hit.
5. Edwin Jackson got his first win.
6. The M&M boys had a good day.
7. Madison Bumgarner set the stage for the Giants. Left-handed hitter Brandon Crawford did some major damage against a pitcher who doesn’t give up much against lefties, Darren Sabedra writes.
8. The Padres had their guts ripped out.
9. The Mariners had some missed opportunities.
The Astros rallied, but it wasn’t enough; they’re 10-27.
Jarrod Parker got back to doing what he does.
Salvy Perez has been a great catch for the Royals.
Twins closer Glen Perkins learned from the best.
The Orioles have passed the baton from last year to this year, writes Peter Schmuck.
Mark Buehrle was solid.
Evan Longoria and the Rays got to frolic.
Some good pitching by the Rockies is being wasted, writes Patrick Saunders.
Roy Oswalt could help the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.
The St. Louis pitchers are making this look easy, writes Bernie Miklasz.
Yovani Gallardo has not been the same, writes Tom Haudricourt.
Ron Roenicke hated leaving a young pitcher on the mound to get hammered Friday.
Scott Boras is OK with the Marlins limiting the innings of one of his clients, writes Joe Capozzi.
Justin Upton is still getting on base, even when not hitting homers.
Bryce Harper’s swing has been honed through the years with lots of practice, writes Adam Kilgore.
Justin Upton says he has no hard feelings about Arizona.
As Mariano Rivera continued his unique goodbye tour, he met with Royals fans.
Rivera and Joba Chamberlain had a little brushfire.
A Marlins reliever lost an omelet challenge the other day, Juan Rodriguez writes.
Bo Porter says he feels bad about what happened the other day. It’s been a tough time for the men in blue, writes Larry Stone.
The Rays are not concerned about umpire backlash, writes Marc Topkin.
Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson of a New England legend, is playing his senior season at Vanderbilt, Tyler Kepner writes.
Vanderbilt is 23-2 in the SEC after its sweep of Kentucky on Saturday.
Matt Holliday’s mom is going to bat against cancer.
And today will be better than yesterday.